One of the big challenges for businesses today is in understanding what topics or keywords are driving organic traffic to their website. Most of us are painfully aware of the fact that Google is no longer sending keyword data to Google analytics if the searcher is signed into a Google property. The dreaded “keyword not provided” now makes up anywhere from 50 to 90% of most websites traffic. Google Webmaster Tools can provide some great insights for both SEO performance as well as keyword research.

SEO professionals relied heavily on the keyword data to understand what queries were driving traffic and how it performed once visitors landed on a page within the website. You can get some great information about the keywords that are driving impressions and clicks from within Google Webmaster Tools. If you have Google Webmaster Tools set up and integrated with Google Analytics you can view the impression data from the Google Analytics interface.

Let’s explore ways to use the data from webmaster tools and Google Analytics to monitor and improve your website’s performance in organic search. Today we’re going to talk about Google Webmaster tools and next time we’ll dig into Google Analytics.

Finding the Search Query Data

Google-Webmaster-Tools-Menu-Search-Traffic-Search-QueriesYou’ll find the keywords used in keyword searches under the menu option search traffic/search queries. One thing to keep in mind when you look at this data in Google Webmaster Tools is that the view defaults to “web only” search queries. This means it excludes any search queries for video, mobile, or image searches. You can update the filter to include all search results or to look at any one of those types of searches independently, which is actually kind of cool because there’s not an easy way to do this in Google Analytics.

 The table below the graph contains a list of keywords that have driven impressions for one or more pages of your website. In addition to the actual query you will see the number of impressions, the number of clicks, the click through rate, and the average position.

The number of impressions is the number of times a page on your website was seen on a search engine results page for that phrase. The number of clicks is how many times someone clicked on the link and landed on one of your pages. The click through percentage is the number of impressions divided by the number of clicks. In the average position is somewhat self-explanatory but maybe not completely obvious.

If someone searched on a phrase for which you had multiple pages that might be relevant there’s a chance that links to your website will appear more than once in the search engine results. So the average position of a phrase that was in the first position and the 10th position would be 5.5.

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What Do I do with the Data?

Okay, let’s talk about the data and what it might mean with regard to your SEO strategy. One of the first things you want to do is download the table so that you can work with it in Excel or Google Docs where you can sort by the various columns. You can sort right within the Google Webmaster Tools interface by clicking on the column heading but I find it easier to work with the data in a spreadsheet.

I like to look at this data in a few ways. First of all I look at the keywords driving the top number of impressions to see whether or not they make sense and are on target with what topics I’m trying to drive traffic for.

The metric I focus in on is the click through percentage if I have keywords that are driving good impressions but don’t have a good click through rate that gives me a good clue that the page title and meta-description are not compelling searchers to click through and you the page.

Linking Search Queries to Landing Pages

The keyword in the table is a hyperlink and when you click on it you will see the page or pages that were displayed for that particular search query. This makes it really easy to find the pages that you may need to improve the page title and meta-description to increase its relevancy to the searcher and get more people to click through. In addition to seeing which landing page was displayed you can also see the pages position in search results and the number of impressions and clicks for each position.

Google-Webmaster-Tools-Landing-Page-Data

This provides great information regarding which keywords are specifically driving traffic to which pages on your site. The other way you can get to landing page information from Google Webmaster Tools is to change the view from “Top queries” to “Top pages.” This view gives you a list of the top pages from your website that are being seen in natural search results. You also get impression, click, click through rate, and average position data for each landing page.

Google-Webmaster-Tools-Top-Pages-View

The URL for the page is also hyperlink and if you click on it you will see the list of queries that searchers used and Google found the page to be relevant for. This can be a great tool for further understanding how people are searching for your content and it can generate additional ideas for new topics to write about.

You can drill down one step further from this view because each of the keyword phrases that received any click through traffic will be a hyperlink and if you click on it you get the details about that specific word or phrase.

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All of this is great but there’s still one thing that’s missing. We know now that we can find which words are driving traffic to the site and which pages they are landing on however we don’t know what happens once they get to the site. Are they loving it are they leaving it?

There are some ways to gain an understanding of what’s happening with the traffic from “keyword not provided” by slicing and dicing some of the behavior data from Google Analytics.

I think this post is long enough already so will save Google Analytics for next time. I hope this has given you some new insights into how valuable Google Webmaster Tools can be.

Until next time.

Cheers!

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